After a rainy night sunshine greeted me on my first morning in Edinburgh and I decided to start my tour around the city in Leith and on board of the Royal Yacht Britannia. After being launched in April 1953 the Royal Yacht served the Royal Family for 44 years and travelled over one million nautical miles. She was the last of 83 Royal Yachts, a tradition that begun in the 1660s.
The tour starts at the bridge and captains quarters. You receive an audioguide at the entrence and are free to tour around the Yachts on your own, which takes about two hours.
Britannia was a home away from home – a royal residence with it´s own Rolls-Royce on board. She is not only a beauty, but it does feel cosy and who wouldn´t want to take her for a tour!
Walking on board Britannia, is like stepping back into the 1950s. Sir Hugh Casson was the designer of the Royal Apartments, having previously met Prince Philip when he worked as the Coordinating Architect for the Festival of Britain. Sir Hugh was originally invited to advise on the interior design after the initial plans from Glasgow-based firm, McInnes Gardner & Partners, were considered too lavish by The Queen and Prince Philip in this post-war period. His simple elegance has stood the test of time; the interior design was barely updated during her 44 years of service. (Royal Yacht Britannia)
Around the walls are displayed many exotic gifts given to The Queen, as she travelled around the world on official visits. (Royal Yacht Britannia)
Below deck 21 officers and 220 yachtsmen were working and living. The different rangs also had different quarters and leisure areas.
Around half the ship’s company were appointed for a two year tour of duty. The rest were hand-picked for permanent service and remained with Britannia throughout their naval career. Promotion on Britannia was slow as so many Yotties turned down their natural promotion on to other Royal Navy ships to stay in their existing rank on board Britannia. Therefore promotion for the Yotties became known as ‘Dead Man’s Shoes,’ waiting for the post holder to retire.
Duties ranged from ensuring the slope of the royal gangway was never steeper than 12° to arranging the royal flowers; from daily diving to search the seabed beneath the Yacht to polishing the silverware. In temperatures of up to 120°F, they manned Britannia’s ‘state of the art’ Laundry, yet were as pristine as the ship herself at all times; the Royal Yacht was one of very few Royal Navy ships that did not have a Chinese Laundry service. The junior Yachtsmen also had the arduous task of scrubbing the two-inch thick teak decks each day to keep them in pristine condition. They were also called on to work at the many prestigious state banquets and dinners held on board. (Royal Yacht Britannia)
The on board hospital/sick bay